So you’ve decided it’s time to set up your own cocktail bar – great!!!
No matter whether i’ts a small corner of a room, within a sideboard or perhaps you’re lucky enough to have a brand new house with a REAL bar (life goals!!) – what do you ACTUALLY need to start your first home cocktail bar?
If you plan on doing any sort of home entertaining, we’re going to take you through the essentials you will need for almost all basic cocktail recipes.
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Mixing and measuring your home-made cocktails
Broadly speaking, you need one vessel for shaking cocktails and one for stirring.
As a general rule, cocktails that based on citrus, cream, egg white or similar ingredients are normally shaken, whilst spirit-forwarded cocktails such as martinis should be stirred.
So what will you need?
A Cocktail Shaker
There are two types of cocktail – a Cobbler Shaker and a Boston Shaker.
A Boston Shaker looks more like two cups or metal tins, one slightly larger than the other that fit together.
The easier of the two for amateurs at home is the Cobbler Shaker. The Boston Shaker can take a little practice but works wonderfully for theatrics once you get the hang of it!
For your stirred drinks, you’ll want a dedicated micing glass. We like a slightly larger glass with a pouring spout as supposed to using a standard tumbler. If needs must, however, any wide-necked glass or tumbler will do, including the bottom portion of the Boston Shaker.
Whilst you might be comfortable free-pouring single spirits, measures in cocktail recipes are far more important so you’ll want to be accurate.
You may not know its technical name but I am sure you know it by sight; a Jigger is a small double-ended measuring cup. Measurements can vary depending on where you are from – US branded products will be in Oz and UK/European products in ml. On Mama Loves A Drink we prefer ml, but many cocktail recipes come in “parts” so you can measure relative proportions, 1 part to 1/2 a part etc.
Cocktail Stirring Spoons
Any stirring recipes you will want something long to manoeuvre around the ice so you will find it handy to have a proper Barmen’s Spoon. They serve a dual purpose as you can also use it for measuring out small proportions when a recipe calls for “just a dash” of something.
Ok come on, get all those giggly jokes out of your system ladies – yes, this rather ah, phallic-looking implement is going to be your best friend especially if there are any mojito lovers in the house. Smooth at one end and a textured mallet at the other.
Serving your cocktails
So now you’ve shaken or stirred your cocktail, what tools do you need to present it?
This is how you’re getting your drink from the mixing stage to the serving glass stage.
A Cobbler Shaker you can easily use the inbuilt strainer in the lid. However, for mixed drinks, or drinks with smaller particles you don’t want to serve up there are a few different types of strainer to familiarise yourself with:
Hawthorne Strainer – this has a metal coil at the edge and slotted gaps for the liquid to slide through. It should fit snuggly over your shaker tin or mixing glass while you pour into your serving glass. It will remove most of the larger parts of ice and particles you don’t want in your finished product.
Julep Strainer – This slightly fancier contraption uses a wide, bowl-shaped metal plate with holes in it for the cocktail to pour through while restraining the ice cubes – it is more stylish as a serving tool but in practice doesn’t achieve much more than the Hathowrne strainer!
Fine Strainer – this one looks more like a tea strainer. It is used in addition to the Hawthorne Strainer for shaken drinks. Hold it above the serving glass and tip from the shaker through the fine mesh to remove the smaller shards of ice or drinks that might have small bits of herb or mint leaves you don’t want in the final drink.
You will want a small juicer for extracting from freshly squeezed citrus. It will make a huge difference to your finished product if you can use “the real thing” rather than pre-bottled juices which can be artificially sugared.
A more fancy contraption for extracting juice. It can be good for larger citrus fruit like oranges and grapefruits.
Whilst it’s easy enough to buy large bags of ice cubes these days which are OK, for mixing of shaking your cocktails, for the presentation you want to step it up a level. A regular square or rectangular cube will normally do the trick, but depending on the occasion, there are plenty of novelty designs you can use to liven things up. Silicone molds prepared a few hours ahead of time will work great.
A Y peeler is for expressing citrus oils over a drink. It cuts off a large peel without digging into the flesh of the fruit, creating those beautifully curled peels or sleek decorative slips.
This is a small blade that you run around the circumference of a fruit to release the zest.
Metal Cocktail Picks
Forget the plastic, these days you want to be investing in a nice set of reusable cocktail picks. Ideal for skewering cherries, olives or fruit sticks to add that extra elegant finishing touch. They come in various lengths to suit different types of glasses.
This is all for classy touches – and hygiene – you should be adding your garnishes with tongs to avoid to much handling of the delicate finishing touches.
Putting it all together – your home cocktail kit
So now you’ve got a rundown of all the essential kit you need, do you build it up piece by piece or go in headfirst and buy all the kit? We can say without a doubt, just buy all the kit! Even if you’re not regular cocktail constructors, it’s not super expensive compared to a night or two out on town to buy all your own gear.
The absolute simplest way to do it is buying something such as the Mixology Bar Tenders Set (this is the one we own!) that has all the main pieces you need in one stylishly presented kit.
Wedding present? Mothers Day gift? Hint hint?
Happy cocktail making Mama’s – for more lovely concoctions you can make with your kit, head over to our cocktail recipes section here.
In our next installment, we will be covering all the basic glassware you need to get your own home bar set up.
Mama Loves A Drink advocates quality over quantity. Always drink responsibly!